Friday, 28 July 2017

Breaking Bad ( mini review) | controlling your inner Heisenberg

So I recently finished the last s (eason) eries of Breaking Bad and thought I'd just quickly share my thoughts before I forget all about my blog and stop making reviews again....

Basically everything everybody has ever said about the show is true. No, really.
It is a masterpiece, it is genre- pushing, it is excellently written and acted, etc..

Honestly, I wasn't too fussed about finishing the series as series four (the last I have on dvd) was probably the weakest one, and I wasn't terribly excited to conclude the show.

So I left it for about a year.

Then we got Netflix and I saw it on there one day and thought why not, and I couldn't stop watching once I'd started.
Series five must be the best since the first and really racks up the intensity of each episode and whatever insanity is going on in each.
By this point our no- so- beloved main character Walter White has completely given in to his monstrous alter ego 'Heisenberg' and is just plain evil now; he kills without remorse, he acts only to save himself, and doesn't really care about anything any more.
The difference in attitudes between series one and series five Walt is as stark as my own when I went in and back out of the cinema when I watched Suicide Squad.

But enough of that dead horse..

We may have in Walter White and Jessie Pinkman, two of the best characterisations in television history (maybe even Skylar, for that matter). Seriously, the level of depth with which we go into both character's psyches and how frequently we see how relatable both are is perhaps my favourite part of the show.
Witnessing Walter trying to hold back his inner Heisenberg from busting out of him and eventually giving in, is an amazingly profound journey full of terribly necessary and horribly unnecessary decisions, that none of us could ever know the right answer to.

[Yeah ok, this went on a little too long for a 'mini review', but it's smaller than most of mine so I guess it still fits the margin.
Basically, go watch Breaking Bad if you haven't, or maybe give it a rewatch to catch some additional foreshadowing or a line of snappy dialogue you didn't remember.]

Overall Breaking Bad gets a monstrous 10/10.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Baby Driver | refining a style

So many people kept going on about how Edgar Wright's latest film is his most refined in terms of style and substance.
My dad and I weren't entirely won over by this praise as we'd seen the somewhat uninteresting trailers and thought it may not be the return to form everyone expected after the lacklustre offering of The World's End (only my opinion, apparently).

We were hoping, and maybe even expecting to be proven wrong.
                                                                                                        We were.

Baby Driver shows that being original, witty, clever, colourful and funny can pay off in a big way in modern cinema.

Not only has Edgar refined his already excellent style, but he has added new additions to it that I just know he will implement in future projects. The level of detail in the back and foreground really is something to be admired, as Mr. Wright's ability to reward those who pay attention has been pushed to breaking point in this one.
The use of showing the audience important information is something Edgar has always excelled at, and he has definitely served us up something tastier than before with the use of framing and veering in and out of focus explains more to us than any dialogue could.

The direction is as fast as Baby's driving, if not more so, and the timing of gunshots, walking, clapping, talking, tapping, eating, drinking, alarms, cocking, quipping and movements to the stellar soundtrack is just clever icing on the adrenaline cake.
We've seen E.W. use this in his direction quite a few times before, but never has it been implemented in this exhilarating and calculatingly perfect way before.
Never once did I see the sound design miss a beat and it flowed incredibly well with the crazy pacing and insane visuals.

So yeah, this is one to check out if you like action and/or cars.

I had problems with trying to think up a rating for this film, to be honest.
I had barely any issues with it, but I wouldn't exactly call it flawless.
I think for now I'm gonna give it a 9/10 but this could change on my second watch.

So yeah, Baby Driver gets a stylish 9/10.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Green Room | making good decisions

Finally got around to watching the two most interestingly weird films of 2016: The Neon Demon and Green Room. Both on Netflix.

I must say, the latter is far superior.

Green Room is pretty much a perfect film in my eyes. Talk about a functional film that also stays in your head for quite a while after you've seen it for all the right reasons...

Not only is Green Room suitably intense, well acted, gory, well scripted, tense, well paced and even quite fun, but it is also the most effective thriller I have ever seen (mainly because of these reasons).

In many ways this film reminded me of Hot Fuzz in that the majority of dialogue comes back round by the end to get closure. And man is that dialogue ever brilliant; there's no exposition here, every line feels authentic and natural (something films lately have been lacking, I've noticed) which only adds to the realism factor that is very prominent throughout the run time.

Something that also adds to the realism is the decisions made by the characters at certain points in the film.
You need to have a truly clever film to make a dumb decision pay off as character building. So many times do bland, unoriginal leads decide to touch that gooey alien- seed- pod looking object
 for no reason other than to advance the story.
Not here.
Instead characters make choices in the film that make sense for their character and the overall themes, sometimes for the best, most of the time for the worst.

But I was never left wondering why a character would do that, or go there, or kill that character, but instead their motivations are crystal clear from the get- go and empathetic, leading to me understanding each motive and decision with ease.

And as brutal and gory and angry as the film may be, it does have moments of humanity and humour.
At certain moments the scenario becomes so ridiculous that you just can't help but laugh at how absurd everything is. (In a lesser film, I'd question if this was intentional.)

All in all this really is a fantastic film, and I really can't wait to watch it again.
Green Room gets a tense 9/10.

(Ps, this film gets bonus points for having Patrick Stewart swear often and say the N word.)

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Neon Demon | eh

Never before have I been so torn on a single film.

The Neon Demon is in essence very split in terms of overall narrative.
The story and characters are very simple and in no need of much interpretation, while the visuals and nuances of the cinematography are left up entirely to the audience 90% of the time.
This, to me, is the film's biggest "yay" and "eh".

Once I've seen a film I think to myself on how functional the film is (did it evoke any emotions that are in- keeping with the genre and actual intention of the film?). And usually I come to a conclusion relatively quickly.
Take Fargo:
I'd finished watching Fargo about half an hour before deciding to watch TND, and I came to the conclusion that Fargo is a very functional and important film for the genre.
But with TND I couldn't make up my mind.
Not only is it incredibly subversive of its genre, but it's also very difficult to understand what the director wanted, thematically, to come across in certain segments of the film.

Because of this I find it difficult to come to any proper conclusion for the film.
The characters and the story itself are pretty bland, as I said, but can be attributed to the themes at play; people and the outside would are boring but the world of fashion is spellbinding and classy. But even though the idea of having these essential cogs in the machine behave how they do makes sense on a thematic level, it's simply not enough to keep the same machine running.

But as everyone else says, the visuals really are exceptional.
Even Netflix not being able to run at full HD because of our shitty Virgin broadband couldn't detract completely from how dazzling the film looks.
But really, that's the biggest thing I can praise it for.

Ultimately I feel disappointed with TND, I feel as though the film had major issues balancing its priorities in too many ways for it to come out a successful film.
And this damaged the entire experience for me.

The Neon Demon gets a freaky 6/10.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Four Reviews From Letterboxd

Well thanks to a favourite YouTuber of mine, I stumbled upon a review site which has quickly become one of the few pages I visit daily.
Letterboxd is the name, and reviewing films is the game.
I've written four so far, and I thought instead of simply linking the reviews, I'd do something that takes just a smidgen more of effort: Copy 'n' paste them.
So, I might make this a weekly/monthly thing, I'm not sure yet, but there they are...

Birdman (2014)

5 out of 5 stars.
This film is a masterpiece.
There's certain films that you start watching and you almost instantly recognise them as a masterpiece (i.e. The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, The Deer Hunter, Heat, etc..) and this is DEFINITELY one of them.
What can I say about this film that hasn't been said by every damn critic ever?

It's flawless. It's bloody flawless. I don't even want to go into specifics, really.
Just watch it, that's all. 

Just watch it.

Aliens (1986)

3½ out of 5 stars.

I still don't get the massive amount of love this movie gets.
I mean, it's fine on its own, but really..when compared to Alien.. it just pails in comparison.
The writing is nowhere near as sharp, the characters nowhere near as memorable or likeable, the acting is nowhere near as impressive, the pacing is either too slow or too fast in places and the entire concept of Alien (a haunted house in space) is thrown out the window, resulting in almost no subtlety and jumpscares galore.
Now, the movie definitely has its redeeming qualities: the action, when paced correctly, can be VERY entertaining, Sigourney Weaver, the effects still hold up amazingly well, and.....that's about it.
It's fine, really, but Alien 3 needs much more attention, in my opinion.

The Raid (2011)

4½ out of 5 stars.

Jesus christ, this film just doesn't stop moving.
And I mean that in a good way.
Seriously, its pacing is amazing and damn brutal.
This has some of the best action I have EVER SEEN IN FILM, full stop.
The choreography in this film is just ridiculous, beating Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which I couldn't see happening at the time) by miles.
The story is.. well, it's ok. Its story really is the downfall of this one.
And to be perfectly honest, it doesn't bother me that it is; I'm only mentioning it for the sake of the review.
But really, you get what you get, and in this case, you get a masterpiece of action choreography and brutal violence.

(Sigh) Dougal and the Blue Cat (1970)

4 out of 5 stars.

I wasn't sure if to rate this film as the critic within me would, or as the two year old seeing this for the first time would.
In the end I settled for the two year old.
This film has made a massive impact on my life, and I can't even specify how.
This film is pure emotion, happy, sad, scary, relieved, funny, bizarre.
It covers all of these emotions, and it does so with its funny, witty and hugely memorable characters.
This really is an experience, be it weird and disturbing, or light and charming, you'll definitely get an experience with this film.
(May I just add that the scary things in this film still scare me to no end, even today? The blue voice, the soldiers made from whips, the scary faces room and the treacle factory in general, the weird knife throwing machine thing, all still haunt me. 

And I don't mind one jot.)

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, or Man of Steel 2, or Batman Begins Again, or Justice League (The Before Years) is a modern spectacle of film making.
This is the most criminally underrated film I've ever seen!
What in the Sam Hell where the critics thinking when the reviews came pouring out of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes (both sites known for being the very the best in their field)?
This is one of those films where every single iota of the production works, and is more than clearly visible even to the less inclined in intelligent cinema (Marvel fans).

This highly polished, insanely competent, intriguingly well written film left me beyond staggered and gaping in awe at what I had just witnessed when the credits began to roll. 
What a delight, to see a film and think to oneself 'I didn't once question anyone's motivations or actions, didn't hate a single line of dialogue or sequence and didn't once scratch my head at terrible editing and pacing'; and I've seen Birdman!
Now I know what cinema is at its rawest.

When it comes to the acting in this film...what can I say (This is a rhetorical question. Actually, I know exactly what to say, hence why I'm writing it down)?
Every single actor's performance rivals any I've ever seen. Each actor is so engaged, so well informed of their exceptionally written characters and so unbelievably fluid in their nuances and body language that they feel less like characters and more like very close friends, who you'd rather die than never see again (or at least until the next year).
Jesse Eisenberg is easily the star that shines the brightest amongst its brethren in this film.
He portrays Lex Luthor, but not as we once knew him, no no, his is now a far more sophisticated villain; he plays basketball and stutters all the time.
Only someone with the capacity of Eisenburg could pull of such an inspired performance without making it the least bit hammy. The world of film is so much better off now that we have a truly prestigious performance to learn and reflect from.

The plot is so expertly realised that it even harks back to the (now inferior because of this film) Greek legends; Gods locking horns in an intense and suspenseful fight to the death over the very earth they both grew up on.
Each scene melts into each other, feeling less like a film and more like a live event (but a little more rainy), filling the cinema with a bold, but needed, dark atmosphere.

The tone of this film I cannot praise highly enough. It is almost impossibly original, forming a new genre in of itself: "Brooding".

I feel as if I cannot give this film Justice just by writing about it. The best way to understand how ingenious this stellar film is to experience it yourself.

I must give this film a 11/10, I know I shouldn't but once you see it, you'll understand

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Doctor Strange review

Doctor Strange is my third favourite Marvel Studios movie.
The sheer eloquence and ingenuity displayed before you in the cinema is enough to make you want to give this film five stars.
Add an all- star cast all giving good to excellent performances, subtle subversion of well known  Marvel movie tropes, an overly generous helping of clever comedy, well choreographed action that could possibly rival The Winter Soldier and many likeable and (a few) complex characters, and you have a contender for favourite action movie of 2016.

Can we start with the villain?
Screw you, I'll do it anyway:
Mads Mikkelson as the devious Kaecilius was genuinely surprising to me.
What? A Marvel Studios villain that came away being interesting and, dare I say it, memorable?!
Yes, surprisingly this villain has a certain degree of character, intrigue and a genuine motivation for once. Perhaps Mads adds a layer of depth not shown in the script and has tainted the character with his talent and charm, but this seems to me, to be Marvel's best villain by far.
Now, that's really not that difficult as a cliched 90's Bully, complete with the whole "gimme your lunch money" spiel, is more complex than the large majority of the MCU's villains, but this one seemed on par with Krall from Star Trek Beyond, which I also found to be a pretty decent villain.
Mads was, most likely, the most surprising part of the film for me, and as ever his acting and  delivery is top notch!
Now, let's move on to the meatier stuff; Dr. Stephen Strange himself.
Let's be honest here, Benedict was born to play this role. His resemblance to the original Steve Ditko drawings of the hand- deprived magician was damn uncanny!
And Strangely enough, he pulls it off expertly.
Benedict Cumberbatch may be the best part of this film, he definitely gives the best performance.
His character, without giving too much away, is very true to the original comic book version, with him being materialistic and arrogant and  trying to be in control of everything all the time.
He goes on a spiritual journey, and alongside Cumberbatch's equally eccentric and intriguing hero, we follow.

The story may be a tad unoriginal and similar to perhaps some other Marvel Studios movies (I am sick of this argument, so I'm not gonna make it), but it has elements that are completely its own.
It has my favourite end battle, with a neat subversion of some comic book movie tropes that I won't spoil as it made me so happy to witness, and I hope it'll do the same for you.
It has some of the most imaginative visuals I've seen since Interstellar, even if the action isn't all that impressive when compared to The Winter Soldier or Civil War, but like I said, it is well choreographed.
This is another stellar introduction movie that seems to be the least Marvel- referencing film since Iron Man; the world, although it acknowledges the Avengers and their Headquarters a few times, is very much its own.
And I advise waiting until the end of the first and second end credits have gone as both have surprises to share.

So in conclusion, I relished the ideas and creativity in this film, even if some other parts were slightly lacking.
Doctor Strange gets a magical 7/10